Three people have appeared in court accused of torturing and killing a vulnerable woman and leaving her body to rot in a child’s bunk bed.
Shakira Spencer, 35, was allegedly fatally assaulted in the days before her badly-decomposed body was found at her home in Ealing, west London.
Pregnant Ashana Studholme, 37, Lisa Richardson, 43, and Shaun Pendlebury, 25, are charged with her murder.
The Old Bailey heard how a neighbour had become concerned about Ms Spencer’s whereabouts and noticed a smell coming from her flat in Holbeck Road, Hanwell.
The neighbour alerted police, who forced their way into the home and found Ms Spencer’s body on the bottom bunk bed of a child’s bedroom.
Incense had been placed in the room and dirty cutlery left in the flat which had not gone mouldy.
No children were living with Ms Spencer in the flat at the time of her death.
A special post-mortem examination was carried out but due to the body’s decomposed state the findings of the pathologist were said to be “inconclusive”.
On September 26, the three defendants were arrested on suspicion of her murder and interviewed by police.
Three days later, Pendlebury, from Ealing; Studholme, from Harrow, north-west London; and Richardson, from Ealing, were charged with murder.
On Tuesday, they appeared in court one of the Old Bailey before Judge John Hillen for a preliminary hearing.
Prosecutor Ben Holt told the court the allegations involved the “exploitation of a vulnerable individual during a course of time, with assaults culminating in her death over a number of weeks”.
Judge Hillen said each of the defendants was charged with the murder of Ms Spencer, with “the death most likely being caused by an assault and has been described as torture”.
“That is the allegation of the prosecution. At this stage, causation is part of an ongoing investigation.
“The killing took place on or before September 26 2022 but after September 12, that being the last sighting.”
The female defendants appeared in the dock of the Old Bailey while Pendlebury was on a video link from Wandsworth prison.
The judge set a trial of up to six weeks at the Old Bailey from September 4 next year, with a plea hearing on December 20.
The three defendants, who were all represented by lawyers, were remanded into custody.